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Sorrow and Anger as Congolese Mourners Blame Rwanda-Backed Rebels for Attack

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Mbeki edmond

May 16, 2024

Families in Eastern Congo Accuse Rwanda-Backed M23 Rebels After Rocket Strike Kills Dozens, Including Many Children

On May 3, rockets struck camps for displaced people near Goma, killing mostly children and women. At a mass funeral, 22 children were buried alongside 13 other victims. Fikiri Mvano, mourning his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, said, "She was the victim of bombs dropped by Rwanda in support of the M23."
Mourners weeping on the grave of succumbed victims by Rwanda's M23

KIBATI, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 16 - In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, families gathered near small coffins, mourning the children and others killed in a recent rocket attack. Amid their grief, many directed accusations at the rebels they believe launched the assault.

Relatives, holding crosses with the names of the dead, voiced their anger towards Rwanda, the neighboring country they, their government, and the U.N. allege is supporting the M23 insurgents—a claim denied by Kigali.

On May 3, at least five rockets struck camps sheltering displaced people around Goma, resulting in the deaths of mostly children and women. At a mass funeral in Kibati, 22 children were laid to rest in small caskets, alongside 13 other victims.

"My daughter-in-law was murdered in the Mugunga camp," said Fikiri Mvano. "She was the victim of bombs dropped by Rwanda in support of the M23... She left us her children. She had nine, and three died with her."

Rwanda has denied involvement in the attack, stating it is being used as a scapegoat and suggesting that militias loyal to Congo were responsible. Rwanda's government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Both Congo and the United States have attributed the attacks to forces from Rwandan troops and M23. This ongoing conflict, the most intense M23 offensive since their 2012-2013 insurrection when they seized Goma, has displaced tens of thousands in a region plagued by unrest since Rwanda and Uganda's invasion nearly three decades ago.

The M23, named after the March 23, 2009 accord that ended a previous Tutsi-led revolt in eastern Congo, claims that the Congolese government failed to integrate Congolese Tutsis into the army and government as promised.

Recently, fighting has neared Goma, a city of around two million people and a critical humanitarian and logistical hub for the region. Residents feel increasingly trapped, expressed by Jules Buturanye, a spokesman for the victims' families who lost his sister in the attack.

"If the enemy reaches us in Goma, we have nowhere to go except to drown in the lake or flee to Rwanda to join the enemy," he said.

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